Passion flower is a climbing vine renowned for its beautiful white flowers with purple, blue, or pink calyx crown blooms. The plant is native to North, Central, and South America. While primarily tropical, some of its 400 species can grow in colder climates. The mystery of such a beautiful blossom emerging from an unassuming bud has been compared to the Passion of Christ. This inspired the plant’s name, which dates back to the 17th century. The leaves, stems, and flowers are used for medicinal purposes.
Our proprietary “Star-Rating” system was developed to help you easily understand the amount of scientific support behind each supplement in relation to a specific health condition. While there is no way to predict whether a vitamin, mineral, or herb will successfully treat or prevent associated health conditions, our unique ratings tell you how well these supplements are understood by the medical community, and whether studies have found them to be effective for other people.
For over a decade, our team has combed through thousands of research articles published in reputable journals. To help you make educated decisions, and to better understand controversial or confusing supplements, our medical experts have digested the science into these three easy-to-follow ratings. We hope this provides you with a helpful resource to make informed decisions towards your health and well-being.
3 Stars Reliable and relatively consistent scientific data showing a substantial health benefit.
2 Stars Contradictory, insufficient, or preliminary studies suggesting a health benefit or minimal health benefit.
1 Star For an herb, supported by traditional use but minimal or no scientific evidence. For a supplement, little scientific support.
100 to 200 mg valerian and 45 to 90 mg passion flower three times a day
A combination of passion flower and valerian has been shown to reduce symptoms in people suffering from anxiety.
Several plants, known as “nervines” (nerve tonics), are used in traditional herbal medicine for people with anxiety, with few reports of toxicity. Most nervines have not been rigorously investigated by scientific means to confirm their efficacy. However, one study found that a combination of the nervines valerian and passion flower reduced symptoms in people suffering from anxiety.3 In a double-blind study, 45 drops per day of an extract of passion flower taken for four weeks was as effective as 30 mg per day of oxazepam (Serax), a medication used for anxiety.4
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Passion flower is commonly recommended by doctors as a mild sedative for those suffering from insomnia or nervous exhaustion.
Combining valerian root with other mildly sedating herbs is common both in Europe and the United States. Chamomile, hops, passion flower, lemon balm, American scullcap, and catnip are commonly recommended by doctors.5 These herbs can also be used alone as mild sedatives for those suffering from insomnia or nervous exhaustion. Chamomile is a particularly good choice for younger children whose insomnia may be related to gastrointestinal upset. Hops and lemon balm are approved by the German government for relieving sleep disturbances.6 In a double-blind trial, the combination of valerian root and hops was significantly more effective than valerian root alone for treating insomnia.7
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Passion flower has been historically used to relieve pain.
The historical use of passion flower is not dissimilar to its current use as a mild sedative. Medicinal use of the herb did not begin until the late 19th century in the United States. Passion flower was used to treat nervous restlessness and gastrointestinal spasms. In short, the effects of passion flower were believed to be primarily on the nervous system, particularly for anxiety due to mental worry and overwork.1
The effectiveness of passion flower as a treatment for anxiety has been confirmed in a double-blind study. In that study, 45 drops per day of an extract of passion flower taken for four weeks was as effective as 30 mg per day of oxazepam (Serax®), a medication used for anxiety.2
For many years, plant researchers believed that a group of harman alkaloids were the active constituents in passion flower. Recent studies, however, have pointed to the flavonoids in passion flower as the primary constituents responsible for its relaxing and anti-anxiety effects.8 European herbal pharmacopoeias typically recommend passion flower products containing no less than 0.8% total flavonoids. The European literature involving passion flower recommends it primarily for the treatment of mild to moderate anxiety. In this context, it is often combined with valerian, lemon balm, and other herbs with sedative properties.
The recommended intake of the dried herb is 4–8 grams per day.9 To make a tea, 0.5 to 2.5 grams of the herb can be steeped with boiling water for ten to fifteen minutes and drunk two to three times per day. Alternatively, 5–10 ml of passion flower tincture can be taken three to four times per day.
Some practitioners suggest not using passion flower with MAO-inhibiting antidepressant drugs because of concerns that they may interact with the harman alkaloids in passion flower.10 However, this interaction is theoretical and has not been reported in the medical literature.
Used in the recommended amounts, passion flower is generally safe and has not been found to adversely interact with other sedative drugs. A single case has been reported of a 34-year-old female who developed severe nausea, vomiting, drowsiness, and heart symptoms following self-administration of passion flower. It is not known for certain if passion flower caused her symptoms.11 Passion flower has not been proven to be safe during pregnancy and breast-feeding.
1. Foster S. Herbs for Your Health. Loveland, CO: Interweave Press, 1996, 68–9.
2. Akhondzadeh S, Naghavi HR, Vazirian M, et al. Passionflower in the treatment of generalized anxiety: a pilot double-blind randomized controlled trial with oxazepam. J Clin Pharm Ther 2001;26:363–7.
3. Brown D. Valerian root: Non-addictive alternative for insomnia and anxiety. Quart Rev Nat Med 1994;Fall:221–4 [review].
4. Akhondzadeh S, Naghavi HR, Vazirian M, et al. Passionflower in the treatment of generalized anxiety: a pilot double-blind randomized controlled trial with oxazepam. J Clin Pharm Ther 2001;26:363–7.
5. Brown DJ. Herbal Prescriptions for Better Health. Rocklin, CA: Prima Publishing, 1996, 279.
6. Blumenthal M, Busse WR, Goldberg A, et al. (eds). The Complete German Commission E Monographs: Therapeutic Guide to Herbal Medicines. Austin: American Botanical Council and Boston: Integrative Medicine Communications, 1998, 147, 160–1.
7. Koetter U, Schrader E, Käufeler R, Brattström A. A randomized, double blind, placebo-controlled, prospective clinical study to demonstrate clinical efficacy of a fixed valerian hops extract combination (Ze 91019) in patients suffering from non-organic sleep disorder. Phytother Res 2007;21:847-51.
8. Meier B. Passiflora incarnata L.—Passion flower: Portrait of a medicinal plant. Zeitschrift Phytother 1995;16:115–26.
9. Wichtl M. Herbal Drugs and Phytopharmaceuticals. Boca Raton, FL: CRC Press, 1994, 363–5.
10. Newall CA, Anderson LA, Phillipson JD. Herbal Medicines: A Guide for Health-Care Professionals. London: Pharmaceutical Press, 1996, 206–7.
11. Fisher AA, Purcell P, Le Couteur DG. Toxicity of Passiflora incarnata L. J Toxicol Clin Toxicol 2000;38:63–6.
Last Review: 11-07-2012
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